Kenya electoral agency calms fears over network coverage ahead of polls

The chairperson of Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Wafula Chebukati addresses the media at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi, the country's the official tallying centre on August 4, 2017. Kenya goes to the polls on August 8, 2017. PHOTO| EMMA NZIOKA  

A quarter of all polling stations in Kenya do not have adequate mobile network coverage for transmission of elections results, the electoral commission has said.

As a result, election officials in 11,155 polling centres out of the nationwide 40,883 will have to move to other areas to transmit results, while returning officers in affected tallying centres will use satellite phones, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has said.

RESULTS

The announcement that large numbers of polling stations in such populated areas as Kisii, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Siaya, Vihiga and Busia in western Kenya, as well as Kirinyaga and Murang’a in the central region, have no coverage raised questions and suspicions, but IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said Sunday there is no cause for concern.

The commission has zoned out areas from which telecommunication firms will transmit results.

Unlike in 2013 where the country's leading mobile provider Safaricom was singularly transmitting the results, Telkom and Airtel have also been contracted to do the transmission.

ZONES
Among the areas apportioned to Telkom Kenya are Siaya, Kisumu, Busia, Bungoma, Kakamega and Vihiga (western Kenya), and Nandi, Laikipia and Nakuru (Rift Valley), as well as Nyandarua (central) and Nairobi.

Airtel will transmit from, among others, Homa Bay, Kisii, Nyamira and Migori (central), Nyeri, Murang’a, Kirinyaga and Kiambu (central) and the coastal counties of Taita-Taveta, Tana River, Lamu, Kilifi, Mombasa and Kwale.

Safaricom has been allocated the geographically vast, but sparsely populated areas where it has an extensive network such as Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Isiolo, Samburu, Baringo, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Kericho, Bomet, Narok, Kajiado, Makueni, Machakos, Embu, Tharaka Nithi, Meru, and Kitui.

NETWORK

Upon transmission of results, IEBC has contracted Telkom Kenya to manage its servers from which the tallying will take place before results are made available to the media and the public.

The system to be used to identify voters and send results was successfully tested on Wednesday.

Mr Chebukati said that 78 per cent of the country has 2G and 3G network coverage, meaning challenges are expected in areas in the remaining 22 per cent, where the coverage is not adequate.

“Should you miss (network), you should move where it is available and transmit,” Mr Chebukati said at the Bomas of Kenya, the National Tallying Centre, addressing elections officials.

KIEMS KIT
After the votes are counted and the candidates’ agents are satisfied, they will be filled in a designated form that will be signed by electoral officials and party agents and then scanned using the Kenya Integrated Election Management System (Kiems) kit before being sent to tallying centres.

Mr Chebukati said that once results are keyed into the Kiems kit, they cannot be changed and would be transmitted automatically when adequate mobile network is found.

SATELLITE PHONES

He said the Kiems gadget can work with 2G network upwards and if there is no network at all, which is in the case in counties like Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Lamu, satellite phones would be used to get the results to Nairobi.

The top counties with polling stations without network coverage are: Kisii (922), Murang’a (916), Homa Bay (892), Siaya (775), Busia (641), Kisumu (579), Migori (528), Turkana (468), Kirinyaga (461) and Vihiga (440).

Mr Chebukati was speaking after an inter-religious prayer service where he asked IEBC staff across the country not to "sell their souls to the devil" by doing favours for politicians.

INTEGRITY
He referred to the book of Mark in the Bible, where it is asked: “What does it benefit a man to gain the whole world and lose your soul?”

He directed the same question to the IEBC staff: “Why do you want to lose your soul for doing what you have been told not to do?

"Keep off the little things, the temptations of lying. Why should you lose your soul because you want to help somebody from your clan?

"Why should you lose your soul because you want to benefit from material things?”

HOTLINES
He said that while he was confident in his staff, there could be some who are not, and asked the public to contact the IEBC on its hotlines if they notice anything odd on Election Day.

IEBC vice-chairman Consolata Maina said the commissioners would abide by their promise to deliver free, fair and credible elections.

“We have done everything possible, and the rest we leave to God,” she said.

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